The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scuttling, always scuttling. Filthy black raincoat waving about in the breeze, shoes dragging through the mud. Friendless in dark places. Camera in hand, sometimes it doesn’t rain.

One found himself perambulating towards the Blissville section of Long Island City one recent evening, following the path less travelled – by foot at any rate. Cannot tell you how often it is that I find myself walking along Highway off ramps. Well… in this case Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along the way, one spotted this particularly well developed homeless encampment that was set up in a wooded area adjoining the expressway’s various ramps and overpasses. Having mentioned this particular dwelling to some of the Astoria commentariat subsequently, one was stunned at the hard hearted responses offered in return.

Whatever your opinion of such matters is, it doesn’t negate the fact that this is a human being, or beings, who are living rough. They have nowhere to bathe, or take a dump, or enjoy any sense of personal security while they’re sleeping. I don’t care if they’re nuts, or addicted to nuts, or if they are literally motherfuckers – these are human beings, fellow travelers, somebody’s kid. Have a little empathy for your fellow man, and remember that “but for the grace of god, there go I.” Poor bastards… this photo was captured in freaking January, and depicts the homestead of somebody who lives in an unheated tent made of garbage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I get the disdain, especially from the crew of first generation immigrants who were offering it here in Astoria. To their mind, they showed up here without two cents to rub together and they’ve made something out of themselves so why should they feel sorry for some bum who had every opportunity to do the same. My bleeding heart could not be quieted, however, and I had to remind the commentariat about empathy and their self identification as “Christians.”

I’m not saying that the guy living in the garbage tent is a preferred choice for marrying your daughter, but jeez – on a purely human level you have to feel some sort of pity for their circumstance. Everybody in NYC is a few short months from the street if circumstance goes against us. A friend of a friend went from Wall Street wealthy to homeless shelter in just six months after a health crisis set off a cascade of disasters. Garbage tent can literally happen to anyone of us.

Personally, I distribute old clothing to people in this sort of situation. Socks, t-shirts, etc. I’ll either hand them over in person or just leave a bag near the entrance to their shack with a note. I’m not virtue signaling or anything, just saying that it wouldn’t hurt to help and be empathetic towards another’s circumstance rather than to castigate them for a series of bad choices and or circumstance.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 18, 2022 at 11:00 am

One Response

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  1. We used to call that a Hooverville, a name that goes back to the Great Depression. Used to be one in Central Park. Anyone could be homeless due to a lousy break in a heartless world of vicious capitalism. I used to be afraid I would wind up coughing in a doorway wrapped up in an overcoat, but toward the end of my life found steady work and have escaped a lifetime of poverty.

    Mike Olshan

    March 19, 2022 at 3:59 pm

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